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Hartman Institute 2014 Annual Report Now Available

Donniel Hartman from his annual letter: ‘The Institute is best grasped through the five central ideas that motivate and guide all of our research and educational activities’

The Shalom Hartman Institute 2014 Annual Report has been released, and is now available for digital review and download.

Click on the image above to view and download the complete report. Note: This large file may take time to download, depending on your Internet connection.

In the report, SHI President Donniel Hartman says that the state of the Institute is strong, the list of our endeavors expanding, and the scope of our reach broader than ever. He also says that the Institute is best understood through five central ideas that motive all of our research and educational activities:

  • Judaism and Modernity
  • Religious Pluralism
  • Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State
  • Jewish Peoplehood
  • Judaism and the World

Donniel Hartman’s letter in full

Dear Friends:

The state of the Institute is strong. As is outlined in this report, our work to deepen and elevate the quality of Jewish life in Israel and in North America through the development of innovative ideas, the training of agents of change, and the building of scalable education programs of excellence, continues to grow dramatically.

Our growth has been significant, the list of our endeavors increasingly expanding, and the scope of our reach broader than ever. At the same time, we are more focused on our goals. The Institute is not the sum of its programs, but is rather best grasped through the five central ideas that motivate and guide all of our research and educational activities.

Judaism and Modernity – In the twenty-first century, Jews are living in an open marketplace of ideas and even identities. Jewishness is rarely inherited but instead requires an act of choice. To affect this choice, Judaism must compete and offer a product of excellence. No one will choose to continue our tradition if it is neither intellectually compelling nor morally inspiring. We, like every generation, need to develop new Torah for our time, a Torah grounded by and in conversation with more than 3,000 years of Jewish tradition and life and guided by the needs, realities, and moral and intellectual sensibilities of our time. We need a Torah which combines the best of tradition with the best that we can learn from others. We need religious, educational, and lay leaders trained in communicating this Torah and building institutions which will inspire the choice to be Jewish.

Religious Pluralism – Jews don’t agree. We have different notions of God, halakhah, ritual, ethics, identity, and politics. In fact, it is nearly impossible to identify any singular, core feature of Judaism that everyone who is Jewish shares in common. However, it is not difference of attitudes that undermines our collective identity, but rather, attitudes toward difference. We not only need a Judaism of excellence, but a Judaism of tolerance and mutual respect which recognizes that no one exhausts the truth and that it is precisely the idea of one transcendent God who gives birth to the Torah of "these and these are the words of the living God." We need a Jewish people and an Israel that transforms this idea into policies that shape our national and communal lives.

Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State – The significance of Israel is not merely as a safe haven for Jews at risk around the world, but as the place where a sovereign Jewish people apply the best of our ideas and values in shaping a public sphere. Israel needs a Torah which teaches and a people who are committed to the idea that it is more Jewish to the extent that it is more democratic, that it is more Jewish to the extent that it is based on the principle of the fundamental equality of all of its citizens, and that it is more Jewish to the extent that it respects the inalienable rights and freedoms of all, irrespective of their denominational or religious affiliation, gender, race, or nationality.

Jewish Peoplehood – Not only do Jews not agree, we no longer have a singular, shared national identity. With Jews in North America feeling at home, rather than in exile or Diaspora, an American or Canadian identity is often replacing the Jewish one as the primary national framework to which Jews belong. What is the basis for a relationship between world Jewry and Israel and vice versa? How do we overcome the increasing mutual alienation? How do we create and educate toward a Torah of mutual engagement and involvement that will lay the foundations for a relationship and commitment toward each other?

Judaism and the World – We live in an unprecedented time of acceptance. Freed from the physical and intellectual confines of the ghetto, Judaism and the Jewish people are engaged with and by other faith communities as never before. As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, we move beyond dialogue with the "other," to an opportunity to share and learn with each other and from each other. How do we prepare Judaism to live and thrive in this environment? How do we develop a Torah capable of engaging the world? How do we develop new educational endeavors which engage other faiths in the central ideas and challenges of Judaism and Israel?

The state of the Institute is strong, but that of Judaism and the Jewish people is not. We face many significant challenges in the years to come. I want to thank you, our friends, supporters, colleagues, and students, for your help, partnership, commitment, and trust. We have come a long way together, and there is much work ahead of us. God willing, together, we will fulfill the responsibilities which have been placed upon our shoulders, and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Sincerely yours,

Donniel Hartman

You care about Israel, peoplehood, and vibrant, ethical Jewish communities. We do too.

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